Borg vs McEnroe

Issue 3 #ACE Magazine - Borg v McEnroe

It’s 1980. It’s the eve of Wimbledon and Bjorn Borg is going through something of a personal crisis as he prepares his assault on history, attempting to win a record fifth Championships in a row.

The fame and adoration that follow Borg wherever he treads doesn’t sit comfortably; he trains alone and has to escape into coffee shops to avoid the fans that are in pursuit of his autograph.

“It’s all in here” his coach, Lennart Bergelin tells the superstar, trying to appease the anxiety that has engulfed his prodigy, pointing to his head in reassurance.

It doesn’t work. Well, not immediately at least. All the while Borg suffers through his crisis, the rock anthems that are the soundtrack to John McEnroe’s life of turmoil can be heard getting louder in the background. They’re creeping up, threatening Borg’s very existence.

That’s the set up for Borg vs. McEnroe, a new film that puts the rivalry of two tennis greats under the microscope. But as much as the film’s narrative is about the build up to the epic Wimbledon final they faced off against each other in, it’s that line from Bergelin we find resonating most throughout; it’s wisdom that is just as defining as the ground strokes that would crown a champion.

Stellan Skarsgard plays the Swedish coach impeccably. He’s subtle, fading into the background, often seen, but rarely heard as Borg takes centre stage.

Yet throughout, we’re reminded of that principle. It’s all in the mind; success and failure is judged by one thing and Borg has to stabalise himself if he’s ever to make history.

Director Janus Metz says he was never a tennis fan until making Borg vs McEnroe. “I fell in love with the sport,” he told #ACE of his experience on set.

That lack of tennis knowledge is at odds with the film he’s delivered, however. He’s produced something close to a sporting masterpiece, a film that’s just as much about the human condition as it is about two men with rackets. Equally, it’s that very thing that drives success in the former and Metz clearly understands it.

Take the coach and player relationship that we see play out on screen. Bergelin mentors a tempestuous teenager in Borg – played by Borg’s son, Leo – and teaches him to hone his emotion in order to achieve the success his ability should deliver.

When he’s mastered it, then appears McEnroe, a timely reminder of Borg’s inner demons that stifle him, making him question everything that lies in front.

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